Vietnamese remain vigilant as UK eases Covid restrictions

By Trung Nhan   August 4, 2021 | 09:30 pm PT
Vietnamese remain vigilant as UK eases Covid restrictions
People walk along Regent Street, amid the Covid-19 outbreak, in London, Britain, July 26, 2021. Photo by Reuters/Henry Nicholls.
Hong Phuong said she and her friends still actively wear face masks, although many people in the U.K. have abandoned this practice.

"Currently, face masks are no longer mandatory. But all indoor public spaces still put up signs as friendly reminders. Yesterday when I went to the museum, the staff stood and reminded me in a caring way and not as though I have to obey the law like before," said Hong Phuong, who is studying and working in West London.

Awareness of the use of face masks is one of the most obvious changes in Great Britain before and after July 19, also known as "freedom day."

Since that day, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has lifted almost all social distancing measures and regulations to prevent the Covid-19 epidemic.

While the number of new infections in the U.K. is still high, it still maintained a downward trend. More than 26,000 were recorded on July 31, which was 3,000 cases lower than the previous week.

"The fact the number of infections and hospitalizations is much lower than previous predictions is also a surprise to me," Phuong admitted.

According to her, the most common cases of giving up on face masks after opening include people in their twenties and children. People also have a more comfortable mentality in maintaining distance, as shown in recent football matches. During this week's holiday, many families confidently plan to travel to Scotland or to countries on the U.K. government's safe to travel list.

IT consultant Oanh Nguyen, 28, helped to organize an outdoor event about a week after "freedom day". The event had nearly 20,000 attendees in an open space, and the number of people actively wearing protective masks was very small.

"Because I'm a careful person, I still choose to wear a face mask to be safe. I won't be confident until I get two shots of the vaccine," she said, noting she had her first jab in June and would receive her second shot in early August.

Before July 19, Britain relaxed the regulations for people not to wear masks when participating in outdoor activities, then lifted all regulations on "freedom day". However, some supermarkets in Northampton, where Oanh lives and works, still encourage customers to wear masks when shopping.

"For me, wearing a mask has become a habit. But my friends were quite excited when the regulation is lifted. Since it's the middle of summer, the decision to reopen shops and businesse is very well received since people don’t typically go out much during the cold winter," Oanh said.

The basis for Britain to confidently reopen is the national vaccination rate. On the last day of July, another 38,858 people in the U.K. received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, bringing the total number of those to have received at least one shot to 88 percent of the adult population. People who have been fully vaccinated account for more than 72 percent of the adult population across the country, according to Sky News.

However, the picture of living with Covid-19 in the U.K. is still considered complicated. The number of Covid infections in the country increased suddenly right before the opening, before the start of a downtrend. Despite encouraging achievements in vaccine coverage, experts are concerned the Covid-19 wave may re-emerge if people neglect to prevent new strains of the coronavirus.

Hong Phuong shared she would not be too surprised if British authorities tightened restrictions again in the near future. Since the outbreak, the prime minister's cabinet has repeatedly changed its anti-epidemic strategy, from a relaxing anti-epidemic to a strong blockade and extending the blockade at the last minute.

"I'm also tired of the long stay at home orders, but if scientists and the government say we still have to shut down, we have to accept it," Phuong said, adding she is still cautious because she has only had one shot of the Pfizer vaccine and is awaiting her second.

Oanh also strickly adheres to preventive measures, partly because her family in Vietnam are also very worried and often remind her not to be subjective. However, she is very happy that life in the U.K. is gradually returning to normal, making work and daily life more convenient.

According to Oanh's observations, contact tracing measures are still maintained by some service providers, restaurants and offices, although not required. Unlike many European countries, the U.K. has achieved high vaccine coverage in the population, so there are no specific restrictions for the unvaccinated, or special welfare for those who have been vaccinated.

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